HVAC Miseries Point to BPL’s Fateful Decision Regarding Brooklyn Heights Library Branch

With soaring summer temperatures imposing shortened hours of operation, the non-functioning air conditioning system of the Brooklyn Heights branch library on Cadman Plaza West stands as a flagrant example of the Brooklyn Public Library’s ongoing financial woes. And BPL’s projected solution for the problem—the sale and demolition of the two-story building in favor of a massive high-rise housing a new branch on its lower floors—seems to many a cure worse than the illness.

For the past few years, BPL’s administration has warned of the need for millions of dollars in emergency capital repairs, an amount that has now ballooned to $82,000,000, part of a larger capital deficit of some $308,000,000.

As chronicled in the first installment of BHB’s three-part series examining the Library’s capital funding issues, these problems did not arise overnight. Like the New York and Queens Public Library systems, BPL’s financial troubles are long-standing, as the Library struggles to maintain an aging network of 60 branches while accommodating greatly expanded usage.

Said Julie Sandorf, President of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the quality of the city’s three library systems, in a September 2013 presentation to the City Council about their capital construction needs, “Over the past decade, our city’s libraries have seen a 27 percent increase in program offerings, a 40 percent increase in program attendance, and a 59 percent increase in circulation,”…. [B]ranches across the city are suffering from decades of neglect and underinvestment.” Ms. Sandorf noted that the average Brooklyn branch is more than 60 years old, including 18 Carnegie branches built more than 90 years ago.


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  • Michael D. D. White

    Plans to sell the libraries with mayoral (i.e. Bloomberg) approval go back at least to the summer of 2007. Since those plans intertwine with an intentional defunding of the libraries and effort to drive these capital assets into the ground- because how else would anyone fathom explaining the selling and shrinking libraries to the public expecting the public to countenance such a proposition?- So it, of course, makes sense that the Bloomberg administration with its twelve years in office has manufactured this situation.

    But capital assets by their very nature last and are attended to long-term, with long-term plans, and long-term solutions. There should be no false urgencies that deny that we have time to address this problem no matter how long Bloomberg spent working to create it.

    In the bigger, long-term, scheme of things, it really isn’t that long ago that Guiliani was in office executing expansion plans for these same capital assets.

    We must also mull over Ms. Johnson’s noted abject failure as a fundraiser. As Bloomberg wanted the system drained of funds would she (a Lauder brother’s* girlfriend) really have been considered a loyal executioner of plans had she truly succeeded in raising funds?

    When it comes confronting those who arrogantly want to sell any of our public assets, be it LICH, other hospitals, parks, public housing, schools or whatever, we cannot let it be that all it takes for these few privileged individuals to win is the temporary denial of funds and plundering of resources.

    (* Lauder’s current net worth is $8.3 billion. And in the twelve years that Bloomberg was denying libraries of the small amount of funds they need to continue Bloomberg increased his own personal wealth by nearly $30 billion. Nearly the entirety of Bloomberg’s current wealth was acquired while in office as mayor.)

  • Michael D. D. White

    However much Bloomberg built up the current BPL capital deficit over his twelve years in office, the entirety of it (probably overstated as it is- per the evidence) at $308,000,000 it is just 01.140% of the amount by which Bloomberg increased his own net personal wealth (acquiring most of what he now has) during those same twelve years in office.

    Why is this important to mention here?: It’s important when we are selling libraries like Donnell for far less than it would coast to replace them and people are getting very rich in the process.

  • marshasrimler

    i say it is past time to replace Linda Johnson and a board that cannot accomplish results for the public. Lets have a town hall with the BPL trustees on a stage before the community.

  • Roberto

    Bravissimo al signor Randazzo! I recall the CBS report that showed Randazzo giving flowers to an opera singer. His reporting on our beseiged library deserves un sacco di fiori. Randazzo’s piece on the policy to allow the Brooklyn Heights library to rot and lose value is reminiscent of SUNY’s playbook for the dissolution of Long Island College Hospital. In the face of a crying need for LICH, SUNY cited the fact that it was losing money, even as SUNY turned away paying patients.

  • marshasrimler

    political implications are important. Brad Lander who described the destruction of our library as “creative” and is a Linda Johnson cheerleader is strongly behind Peter Sikora for assembly.. Is this progressive?

  • Michael D. D. White

    Talk about your “tin hats”: how about BPL spokesperson Josh Nachowitz espousing publicly, on the record, in the CAC meetings that insurmountable engineering impediments exist to fixing the air conditioners, posed by virtue of the fact that 2013 vintage computers and iPads are generating too much new additional heat to handle?

    No, we don’t “think” that the Bloomberg administration was obsessed by just “one little piece of property”- We actually know, as documented in the NYPL minutes (plus a story in The Nation) that in the summer of 2007 (right before sale of the Donnell Library) Bloomberg and his First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris (in charge of real estate, libraries, political strategy and dispensing “charitable” donations) was reviewing and blessing a number of library sales and shrinkages. And we know that in that same summer of 2007 the administration had a long list of Brooklyn libraries it was furnishing to the development community for similar propositions.